South Africa 2018 Tour Report
Monday 4th of June could not come soon enough for 22 members of UStARFC. Standard kit delivery service by PlayerLayer dictated that tour kit was handed out in St Salvator’s Quad minutes before the traditional tour photo. Following this the boys headed for a pre-tour curry and several dice rolls to decide forfeits for the excursion. Several members of the party ended up with all manner of bizarre hairstyles making that were bound to have made their time in airport security a more difficult ordeal. Roland Walker, the team captain, found himself committed to wearing his kilt for the entire duration of the tour; Charlie Davies the former club vice-captain found himself resigned to pouring his first two beers on his head every night.
It was an early start for the squad with taxis leaving for Glasgow Airport at midnight with the flights not set to take to the air until 6:05am on the Tuesday. 22 hours after leaving the East coast of Fife the team dumped their bags at the hotel in Pretoria and headed straight for the nearest pub. Little did we know that the reason the pub was so quiet when we got there was that someone had been shot there the night before but the Saints men, unperturbed by the deathly silence, brought a large amount of business to the establishment. The next day many sore heads travelled to the cradle of humankind to examine the close relatives of our front row. Having gotten the education for the two weeks in quickly the team returned to Pretoria for the first match against what we expected to be a 4th/5th XV University of Pretoria side. 5 minutes into the game it became apparent that this was in fact the universities 1st XV featuring 5 members of the Blue Bulls Super Rugby squad. The Saints knuckled down and fought hard for their share of the 119 points scored in the match. In the final play of the match Jamie Appleton broke through to dot down and seal a 114-5 loss for the tourists.
The next morning the squad departed for a Game Lodge in the Pilanesberg where they would spend the next 3 days enjoying an experience that was far nicer than what you would expect a university tour to provide. Successfully spotting the big five between the groups and enjoying the regions fine wines around the fire at night, it was not something that the tour party will forget in a while. On Sunday the 11th, following a game drive in the morning, the squad travelled to Johannesburg for the first test of the England vs South Africa series at Ellis Park. Having been kindly hosted by 1st year Ryan Trusler’s family for lunch, the men dressed in their kilts were treated to a score line nearly as large as their own a few days earlier, with South Africa running out 42-39 winners. The departure lounge in Johannesburg airport the next day was a busy place with the Springboks, England and the Saints all travelling the following day. Several attempts were made to sign Maro Itoje up for a night course at the university in the hope that he could turn our luck around, but he sadly declined. The squad arrived in Stellenbosch later that evening and then attempted to eat a steak house out of business with every member of the team ordering an 800g T-bone. On the morning of the 11th the team visited Rietenbosch Primary School in Cloetesville Township on the edge of Stellenbosch. There we spent the morning providing coaching sessions to several of the year groups. Several members of the tour party had been at the school the year before as part of the Saints Volunteer programme, so it was great that the rugby club could get involved on initiative. That afternoon and the following day the squad visited several of the regions vineyards and a cheetah rehabilitation sanctuary. On Wednesday the 13th the team kicked off their second match of the tour against an U21s side from Helderberg RFC. Throughout the game the saints team were physically dominant throughout the match but failed to finish several of their chances (potentially due to the discovery of litre bottles of beer at a nearby pub the night before). Ultimately the Saints won the match 25-10 and then enjoyed a Braai with their opposition. That Wednesday night was enjoyed by the squad like every other Wednesday night back at university.
The following day the Saints made their way down the peninsula to Cape Town. Due to poor visibility for the day, the trip to Cape Point was postponed and the tour party paid a visit to the Two Oceans Aquarium. On the 15th the squad visited Newlands Rugby Ground; credited as the 2nd oldest rugby stadium in the world, the tour of the stadium was an insight into the history of rugby in the region. This was followed by a trip to the Rhodes Memorial for an overcast view of the city. That night the Saints kicked off their final match of the Tour against False Bay 3rd XV. With their 1st XV ranked as the top team in South Africa and Huw Jones counted amongst their former players, the match was a good test for the Saints. With some of the best rugby played all tour, this match was another high scorer. Unfortunately, the Saints lost this one 33-31 but spirits were high following the match and the beer flowed late into the night. The next morning the squad made its way to Signal Hill after both the cable car to Table Mountain and the boat to Robben Island were cancelled. Following this, a visit to the penguins at Boulders Beach. The tour party stopped off back at the False Bay clubhouse to watch the 2nd test between South Africa and England. Following another South African win, half the tour party celebrated and the other drank to dull their disappointment, this was all done in a little game known as room golf.
On the 17th the party made its way to Cape Point. About the only outdoor attraction accessible due to the miserable cape weather, it provided some fresh air to help the party clear their headaches from the night before. That night was an early one in prep for the tour our Newlands brewery the next day. The brewery tour provided a unique experience that even those who worked at the factory admitted they had never witnessed before. To the dismay of the party we witnessed litres and litres of beer go to waste on the factory floor as a production line malfunction saw several hundreds of bottles smashed on the floor. Several members of the party were offering to go lick the floor clean. The afternoon featured a trip to the rugby museum and then the final night out of tour. The party was so determined to make it last as long as possible that the hotel had to send the police to bring us back to the hotel when they decided that it was too late for us to be out. On the morning of the final day several tired members of the party made their way up a cloudy and windy lions head in the hope of catching a glimpse of the city. It was not meant to be however, and they made their way back down with only a glimpse western seaboard below. That night the team departed from Cape Town airport landing in Glasgow the next day.
UStARFC’s South Africa 2018 tour was one of what some would term peaks and troughs, I would label them contrasts. From dingy pubs that only being with your team mates can make better, to enjoying fine wines and sunset game drives. From rubbing shoulders with international rugby stars to receiving potentially the heaviest defeat most of us will ever suffer. From the East Neuk of Fife to the most South-western point of Africa, this was a tour that will be not easily be forgotten by those that attended.